A year ago when I became President, I thought it would be a really cushy job. No worrying about the organisation of the club, planning caving meets or parties. There were at least seven other committee members for such menial tasks. What I had not realised is how much time goes into writing (and typing) the newsletters. Now that my year-long stint is over, I do at least have a record of what went on in the year, all be it from a somewhat biased account.
There is loads of expedition material in this year's journal so I won't dwell on the subject. As always a couple of kilometres of cave passage were explored and surveyed, although unfortunately the cave shrank by a few metres as various loops were closed. In fact I believe there was something of a battle between the cavers and the computer programmers and despite the valiant efforts of the cavers, the computers won the day and the bottom of Kaninchenhöhle rose towards the surface. This will not happen in 1991, I shall be there to make sure of it!
The summer of 1990 saw yet another world record being broken by a CUCC member. In spite of Wookey's attempts to become the world's filthiest man, it was Lesley Maw who hit the headlines of the Cambridge Evening News with her world record breaking swim through a ditch three feet deep in muddy water. Lesley is now in the Guinness Book of Records as Women's World Champion Bog-Snorkeller. I believe she is happy to give CUCC members autographs and will open supermarkets for a small fee.
Summer 1990 drew to a close and we were besieged by yet more novices who wanted to be taken caving. In fact we had to organise three trips to P8 taking about 50 people caving all together. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves, even the ones who put wetsuits on back to front and inside out. However, for some reason, the term 'novice' was taken as an insult by several of them although nobody managed to come up with a better one. 'Kiddies' would be even worse and 'Those New to Caving' is a bit of a mouthful. Suggestions for next year should be made to the new President.
In spite of all our efforts, several novii are still with the club and have taken up committee posts. The CUCC machine lumbers on, churning out sound cavers from spotty undergraduates!
I hate to say this but CUCC has been getting more organised over the year. Gear orders are becoming incredibly efficient. From a low point last year, when a gear order meant a day-trip to Inglesport, they have been gradually streamlined. Indeed, the other week we LEFT Inglesport at half past nine in the morning. Meets have also been more organised. Unfortunately the weather rather spoilt a Saturday trip to Leck Fell where it was planned to do both Notts and Lost Johns'. All the tackle was packed in labelled bags, rigging and de-rigging teams were organised and then we got to the entrance to Notts to find the passage below the entrance climb waist deep in water. A hasty retreat was beaten and so (as tradition dictates) there was the usual attempt to get nearly thirty people to the bottom of Lost Johns'. Most people turned back at the bottom of Battleaxe. However, Ian Harris, was almost washed over the last pitch and this won him the Golden Boot Award at the Annual Dinner.
Talking of the dinner, I'd just like to mention how excellent it was. Tanya Savage excelled herself as Dinner Lady, and she will be hard act to follow next year. The atmosphere at the dinner was perfect and the food superb. The party afterwards was pretty good too, even if I was forced to make a little trip into Hobson's Conduit.
On the whole it has been a trouble free year. The only small incident was when seven people (caving as a four and a three) descended GB Cavern where the party size is restricted to six. Unfortunately they were caught emerging together by some UBSS members who control access to the Charterhouse caves on behalf of the Bristol Waterworks Company. After threatening to ban CUCC from Charterhouse caves, relations between the two clubs have improved considerably after several CUCC members went and cleared out rubbish (and about thirty bags of straw) from Foxes Hole. Although the crime does not appear to be very serious, the rules are drawn up to be followed and landowners have a habit of banning access to caves altogether if the access rules are persistently flouted. This has happened before in Yorkshire and Mendips and hence it is worth abiding by what may seem petty permit regulations. Fortunately, CUCC have not been banned from Charterhouse caves, and relations between the two club have improved such that we have ben invited to the fireworks party at the UBSS hut.
I would also like to mention Mike Thomas. Whilst on a ski-ing holiday in the spring, he fell over, landing on his back, and unfortunately his fall into soft snow was broken by the ice axes he was carrying on his back. He suffered severe spinal injuries and after a brief spell in hospital in Grenoble, he was moved to hospital in Hexham. Here he is recovering, the latest news that I have is that he is now well enough to venture out into Hexham for a Chinese. Mike was a tower of strength and a great support for all of us during Becka Lawson's rescue from Kaninchenhöhle in 1989 and the whole club wishes him all the best on the road to recovery.
The other debate that I shall dwell on briefly here is the EXCS debate. I'm not entirely sure why this has surfaced as relations between the clubs do not seem to have changed drastically over the last few years. My own feeling is that CUCC should be a club run by students of the University but in which older members can and should play a vital part. In a University club such as CUCC it is all too easy for the most experienced members of the club to have caved for only 2 to 3 years. Experienced members play a vital part in training the younger members and this training is not just taking novices down P8. Over the last couple of weeks, novices have been on trips down Lost Johns', Gingling, Disappointment Pot and other relatively technical caves. I would hate to see CUCC returning to the days when people were taught S.R.T. on a climbing wall two weeks before going to Austria. Hence any old members of CUCC are very welcome to turn up and go caving with the club. After the first couple of meets of the academic year, there are normally trips for all levels of caver and I hope no EXCS member feels they are excluded from any CUCC meet. CUCC meets lists are usually sent to Doug Florence for publication in EXCS newsletters and CUCC secretaries will send out meets lists if asked. I hope this encourages those leaving Cambridge to cave with CUCC occasionally.
Well, my stint as President is over now. The Caving Club is safe in other people's hands. I can hang up my oversuit, empty my carbide for the last time, put my cowstails in the car for a tow rope. Hang on, is that Austria I see looming in a month or so's time? It is, wait for me, I want to go caving!